Leo Cárdenas

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Leonardo Lazaro Cárdenas Alfonso
(Chico or Mr. Automatic)

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 5' 10", Weight 163 lb.

BR page

Biographical Information[edit]

Leo Cárdenas, often called "Chico", had a 16-year career in the major leagues, more than half of which was with the Cincinnati Reds.

One of the last Cuban players to leave before the borders closed, Leo signed with the Reds in 1957 after a year in the Arizona-Mexico League. He was back in Cuba with the Havana Sugar Kings in the International League in 1959 when some of Fidel Castro's supporters got too exuberant and started firing off rifles celebrating the 26th of July Movement. A couple of players, including Leo, were wounded, and the Havana team moved to Jersey City in 1960, the same season Leo debuted in the bigs. He was part of a turn-around that made the Reds, who were under .500 in 1960, the National League pennant winner in 1961. Cárdenas, platooning with Eddie Kasko following the departure of Roy McMillan, hit .308 in 74 games and went 1-for-3 in the World Series. Skipper Fred Hutchinson, impressed with Leo's bat, moved Kasko over to third base for 1962, Leo beginning a string of eleven seasons playing 100 or more games.

Cárdenas became the first double play partner of Pete Rose when "Charlie Hustle" broke in the major leagues as a second baseman in 1963. Leo had good range, winning a Gold Glove in 1965 and played exclusively shortstop for most of his career. He also had some power, with 118 lifetime major league home runs. His biggest home run came on August 19, 1965 off Larry Jackson of the Chicago Cubs; hit in the 10th inning, it gave the Reds a 1-0 win and, more importantly, allowed Reds pitcher Jim Maloney to record his first career no-hitter. In 1966, when he hit 20 home runs, his 81 RBI tied for first on the team. He led the league in intentional walks in both 1965 and 1966. He made All-Star appearances each year from 1964 to 1966, returning following a one-year hiatus in 1968. Following the '68 season, he moved to the Minnesota Twins for pitcher Jim Merritt.

While Woody Woodward (in 1969) and, eventually, Dave Concepcion seized Cincinnati shortstop duties, Cárdenas settled in for three seasons as the Twinkies' regular shortstop. A member of the division-winning clubs in 1969 and 1970, he got to appear in the first two ALCSes in history, mustering only a .167 average in 6 games. He enjoyed his finest season with the Twins in 1971, making his final All-Star Game appearance while slugging 18 home runs with 75 RBI. He was moved to the California Angels for Dave LaRoche for 1972, playing his final full-time season, before finishing his career with three seasons as a bench player for the Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers.

In 16 big league seasons, Leo hit .257 in 1,941 games, recording 1,725 hits while driving in 689 runs. He was inducted into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame in 1981.

Baseballlibrary.com says that his father, Rafael, had been a top professional shortstop in Cuba but no Rafael Cárdenas is listed in Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History and Leo is the only Cárdenas in that publication with a career of any real length. Additionally, top Cuban players almost always played in either the Negro Leagues, Mexican League or USA, but no Rafael Cárdenas is listed in Pat Doyle's Professional Baseball Player Database, The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues or The Mexican League: Comprehensive Player Statistics, indicating that Baseballlibrary is likely incorrect.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 5-time All-Star (1964-1966, 1968 & 1971)
  • NL Gold Glove Winner (1965)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 1 (1966)

Related Sites[edit]